Senate Passes Earth Day Bill Package

Phil Boyle

April 24, 2013

Measures Encourage Renewable Energy Development, Reduce Mercury from Light Bulbs, and Protect Sharks and Other Species

The New York State Senate today passed a package of six bills that celebrate Earth Day by promoting the use of renewable energy, reducing harmful pollutants, and protecting sharks and other vulnerable species.

New York State is experiencing a lag in the development of solar and energy storage segments of the energy sector. A bill passed today (S2522) would help attract and retain these growing industries by providing a clear incentive for businesses to make capital investments in solar and energy storage manufacturing and development by providing tax credits. It would create new jobs, increase economic investment, reduce harmful emissions, and help New York meet its goals for renewable energy development.

The legislation builds upon Governor Cuomo's expansion of the “NY-Sun” program, which was outlined in an announcement earlier this week, by providing a refundable tax credit up to a maximum of $25 million per year for four years to further increase manufacturing, development, and research for solar or battery storage industries. Manufacturers might also be eligible for a 10 percent credit for the expenses associated with conducting research or manufacturing.

“This bill would be great for promoting renewable energy, great for encouraging solar development, and great for providing real incentive to solar and battery storage manufacturers to invest in New York by building plants and creating jobs here,” Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean G. Skelos said.

The Senate also passed legislation (S1600) to reduce the amount of mercury that ends up in homes and the waste stream. The bill details the amount of mercury to be allowed in fluorescent lamps and normal-life and long-life bulbs. These light bulbs sometimes contain significant amounts of mercury, which can be released and become an environmental hazard when it enters the waste stream.

Another bill (S1711B) that that passed the Senate today would prohibit the sale, trade or distribution of shark fins in the state. The fins are a delicacy in some cultures, but finning is damaging the fragile shark population and could have significant effects on the oceanic food chain. New York has already banned the practice of finning a shark, and this legislation would further protect sharks by not allowing shark fin to be possessed, sold, or traded.

Three other bills were passed today to protect additional ocean species:

· S4220 extends the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) authority to regulate whelk and conch, which is essential to maintaining the existing population and preventing over-harvest;

· S4221 extends DEC’s authority to manage the harvest of bay scallops, which are presently at very low population levels, by establishing guidelines such as setting size limits, catch and possession limits, open and closed seasons, and possession and sale. These measures are considered vital to maintaining the viability of the scallop population and to protecting the shellfish industry.

· S4567 protects New York’s declining lobster population by bringing the state into compliance with federal management plans that require a prohibition of lobster harvest in the Long Island Sound for two months each year, between September 8th and November 28th, among other measures.

The bills have been sent to the Assembly.